FAFSA Help Needed for Computer Unfamiliars

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Technology and finances are two things that tend to frustrate older generations, I’ll be the first to admit that I never turn in financial aid forms on time for this reason. In fact, I didn’t even fill out my FAFSA until May (i.e. last week).

The few days proceeding my first quarter at Edmonds Community College involved two trips to the financial aid office, a scramble to fill out form after form asking me the same basic questions about myself, and enrolling in three gen-ed classes that somehow had not filled up, though that’s a story for another time.

My professors may describe me as chronically late. However, chronic lateness is not what holds me back from being on top of my financial aid.

This past week marked the third time I have filled out FAFSA, and I would describe it similarly to the last two: stressful, time consuming, and…loud. For my mom, that is. I don’t know about everyone’s parents, but my mom is the least tech-savvy person I know and it shows, especially when filling out FAFSA.

Every year is the same story: fill out my portion of FAFSA, get told I’m a dependent and then hand the computer over to my mom to provide her tax information and all that jazz. The frustration begins. The typing with just a finger or two certainly doesn’t help, but she struggles with so much more whenever it comes time to fill these out. Considering this was her second time filling it out this year, as my brother will be attending college soon, you’d think that she would understand it better.

You’d be wrong. What takes me five minutes takes her an hour.

My mother, and the parents of virtually everyone who’s college aged at this point, grew up in a time without the computers we know today, and in an era where it was a lot easier to attend college without aid. Some people in these older generations are more hip with the times, but a lot of them aren’t, which can make all of these online financial aid forms especially frustrating for them.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) itself has taken note of this, which is evident by the numerous guides and other resources that they make specifically for parents. They even have entire help sections on their website devoted to questions parents have, or for the students about their parents.

“The FAFSA also has a customer service line that you can call for specific FAFSA questions or issues with the application,” said MiChelle Thornsen, director of financial aid. “You can call them at 1-800-433-3243.”

Homeroom, The U.S. Department of Education’s blog, also has a step by step guide for parents filling out the FAFSA for their child, entitled “The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form”. The guide provides simple yet clear instructions for parents, along with screenshots of the actual page of the form the steps refer to, all in a nice big font for our visually challenged parents. The screenshots are especially helpful as they also indicate to the parents what they should and should not fill out. For example, they explain how to tell if a specific page should be filled out with the student’s versus the parent’s information.

For those who prefer getting assistance in person, Thornsen invites them to EdCC’s Financial Aid Services. “Students and parents can always visit the front counter in Lynnwood Hall to get questions answered or assistance with the FAFSA or WASFA, along with any of our forms.”

Having this resources will no doubt make the FAFSA process less stressful and chaotic for some, but also likely lower the chance of making a major mistake on the numerous forms. It would be quite unfortunate if the next time you go to fill your FAFSA your mom accidentally tells them you have five kids, are a millionaire and have an outstanding warrant for your arrest. With all that in mind, take these resources and stop waiting so long to fill out those forms!